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Prof. Dr. Gergana Dobreva

The main interest of my group is the study of the mechanisms regulating progenitor cell maintenance, cell commitment, lineage specification, differentiation and transdifferentiation in normal development and pathological alterations of the heart and the lung. These are issues of major clinical relevance, given the fact that congenital cardiac abnormalities are the most common genetic defects in humans and that cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide.

An improved understanding of the molecular mechanisms regulating cardiogenesis and cardiac progenitor cell function is a prerequisite for the successful design of therapeutic strategies for genetic heart diseases and regenerative approaches for heart failure. Additional work in my group has focused on epigenetic mechanisms involved in lung aging and lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer-related death worldwide. Methodologically our principal strengths lie in the fields of genetics, cell biology, developmental biology, gene regulation, epigenetic regulation, chromatin organization, genome stability and cancer.

Main Research Topics

  • Transcriptional and epigenetic control of cardiovascular development and disease
  • Pathways and players in zebrafish heart development and regeneration
  • Endothelial-cardiomyocyte interactions in cardiovascular development and disease
  • Epigenetics in cancer initiation and progression

Project-related publications

Recent publications:


  1. Lityagina O, Dobreva G. “The LINC between mechanical forces and chromatin.” Front. Physiol. 2021 Jul 14.
  2. Jing Y, Ren Y, Witzel HR, Dobreva G. “A BMP4-p38 MAPK signaling axis controls ISL1 protein stability and activity during cardiogenesis.” Stem Cell Reports. 2021 Jul 12:S2213-6711(21)00325-8.
  3. Elsherbiny A, Dobreva G. “Epigenetic memory of cell fate commitment.” Curr Opin Cell Biol. 2021 Apr;69:80-87.
  4. Garvalov BK, Muhammad S, Dobreva G. “Lamin B1 in cancer and aging.” Aging (Albany NY). 2019 Sep 20;11(18):7336-7338.
  5. Gao R, Liang X, Cheedipudi S, Cordero J, Jiang X, Zhang Q, Caputo L, Günther S, Kuenne C, Ren Y, Bhattacharya S, Yuan X, Barreto G, Chen Y, Braun T, Evans SM, Sun Y, Dobreva G. “Pioneering function of Isl1 in the epigenetic control of cardiomyocyte cell fate.” Cell Res. 2019 Jun;29(6):486-501.
  6. Jia Y, Vong JS, Asafova A, Garvalov BK, Caputo L, Cordero J, Singh A, Boettger T, Günther S, Fink L, Acker T, Barreto G, Seeger W, Braun T, Savai R, Dobreva G. “Lamin B1 loss promotes lung cancer development and metastasis by epigenetic derepression of RET.” J Exp Med. 2019 Jun 3;216(6):1377-1395.
  7. Singh I, Contreras A, Cordero J, Rubio K, Dobersch S, Günther S, Jeratsch S, Mehta A, Krüger M, Graumann J, Seeger W, Dobreva G, Braun T, Barreto G. “MiCEE is a ncRNA-protein complex that mediates epigenetic silencing and nucleolar organization.” Nat Genet. 2018 Jul;50(7):990-1001.
  8. Yuan X, Qi H, Li X, Wu F, Fang J, Bober E, Dobreva G, Zhou Y, Braun T. “Disruption of spatiotemporal hypoxic signaling causes congenital heart disease in mice.” J Clin Invest. 2017 Jun 1;127(6):2235-2248.
  9. Witzel HR, Cheedipudi S, Gao R, Stainier DY, Dobreva G. “Isl2b regulates anterior second heart field development in zebrafish.” Sci Rep. 2017,7:41043.
  10. Caputo L, Witzel HR, Kolovos P, Cheedipudi S, Looso M, Mylona A, van IJcken WF, Laugwitz KL, Evans SM, Braun T, Soler E, Grosveld F, Dobreva G. “The Isl1/Ldb1 Complex Orchestrates Genome-wide Chromatin Organization to Instruct Differentiation of Multipotent Cardiac Progenitors.” Cell Stem Cell 2015, 17(3):287-99

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